CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For Tuesday's election, this state's official voter registration is 640,532 Democrats, 358,655 Republicans, 222,016 independents, 1,385 Mountain Party members and 23,971 "other." As usual, Democrats dominate in West Virginia.
Why, then, is the Mountain State likely to back the GOP presidential ticket again, as it did in 2000, 2004 and 2008? Why do analysts rank this Democratic region as a sure GOP "red state"? Why do many West Virginians register Democrat and vote Republican?
Many sociological studies conclude that Democratic "blue states" generally have better-educated, younger, less-religious, more affluent, city residents -- while red strongholds tend to be less urban.
A New York Times analysis said West Virginia will back Republican Mitt Romney because "the state is rural, culturally conservative and religious" with "the fifth-largest share of gun owners, the third-oldest median age and one of the least-diverse and least-educated populations -- all variables associated with Republican Party affiliation."
The gulf is analyzed in the latest New Republic in an essay titled "Blue States are from Scandinavia, Red States are from Guatemala." It says Democratic states have stronger safety nets to help people who lose jobs or suffer other needs.
"By nearly every measure, people who live in the blue states are healthier, wealthier and generally better off than people in the red states," the magazine declares. It adds:
"The four states with the highest poverty rates are all red: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas. ... And the five states with the lowest poverty rates are all blue. ... The numbers on infant mortality, life-expectancy, teen pregnancy and obesity break down in similar ways."
The American Institute for Physics found that blue-state high school students are better prepared in math and science. "Mississippi was worst, along with Louisiana and West Virginia," the magazine said. "In fact, it is difficult to find any indicator of well-being in which red states consistently do better than blue states."
If Democratic West Virginia votes Republican again, maybe these observations will shed light on the state's political contradiction.